by Michael Chitwood
“Chitwood seems to be a Buddhist… who hails from Appalachia, or he’s a motorcycle-riding philosopher taking dictation from nature, writing its gospel with his trusty crow-quill pen. Facing both personal histories and the fates of nations, Chitwood proves that wit and ongoing exploration of the possibilities of prayer make excellent bedfellows.” —Amy Gerstler
“In these poems, you will encounter wood planes, buckets, pickup beds, mattocks, picks, pneumatic drills and more. With one of the best ‘ears’ among contemporary poets, Chitwood, who has himself worked on construction crews, in a textile mill and for a highway department, celebrates here work and all its gritty grind and glory.” —Dannye Romine Powell, Charlotte Observer
“From domestic chores to blue-collar construction, Living Wages is concerned with the vocations—sometimes rough, sometimes sacred, always unglamorous and hidden—that keep whole ways of being alive. A construction worker curses at his ‘shovels, digging bar, mattock, pick.’ A crew attends to a train under the cover of night. Chitwood becomes fascinated by how things work, but his true subject is what the cover leaves out: the people who use the ingenious devices, and how the things they rearrange the world with secretly rearrange them.” —Brian Howe, Indy Week
Stitching a seam. Sweeping a floor. First light after working the all-night shift. These are small moments in everyday jobs, but surprisingly luminous.
In his tenth book, Michael Chitwood describes hard, often dangerous labor, but renders also the quietude of housekeeping and office routines. We call this “making a living,” the way we move through our days, to pay for the roof over our heads. Raking autumn leaves or drilling a dynamite hole to clear rock for a house foundation, we construct our lives. Chitwood knows that what we do today roots us in the past and becomes our future. Here is praise, as Gerard Manley Hopkins said, for all our gear and tackle.
Praise for Chitwood’s previous Tupelo book, Poor-Mouth Jubilee:
“Chitwood seems to be a Buddhist… who hails from Appalachia, or he’s a motorcycle-riding philosopher taking dictation from nature, writing its gospel with his trusty crow-quill pen. Facing both personal histories and the fates of nations, Chitwood proves that wit and ongoing exploration of the possibilities of prayer make excellent bedfellows.” — Amy Gerstler
“Chitwood restores the make-it-new excitement of the first Imagists. Clean, clear, precise, and moving, his poems are free of rhetorical excess and posturing. His concerns are the natural world, family, friendship, health, and the gift and loss of these. Call it the Muse, call it Holy: the Spirit that endows this poetry is evidence of inspiration.”
— Mark Jarman